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Protein Springs Eternal


The dairy case has seen dramatic changes in recent years with the proliferation of new product segments competing with milk for space. Simultaneously, shopper behavior has changed and the retail landscape has evolved.

“New proprietary research from MilkPEP uncovers growth opportunities and a number of actions that retailers can take, including best practices and insights to maximize dairy case sales and, ultimately, drive retailer profit,” says Genevieve Poirier-Richards, SVP of marketing for the Washington, D.C.-based Milk Processor Education Program.

Grocers can take advantage of programs from MilkPEP and other industry groups to drive category sales during June Dairy Month, but more importantly, leverage them to keep the momentum going all year.

The research, led by Prime Consulting and Willard Bishop, included a major dairy milk shopper study and leveraged national IRI data and Willard Bishop’s SuperStudy Grocery. “It uncovered four key opportunities for retailers to invigorate their fluid milk business,” Poirier-Richards explains. “Actions include remedying the out-of-stock issue (costing retailers thousands of dollars of missed sales), increasing days of supply for more profit, increasing milk variety (driven by innovation in the category), and optimizing milk merchandising to focus on the benefits shoppers are seeking, like protein or post-exercise recovery.”

Full research findings are expected to emerge over the coming months.

Meanwhile, MilkPEP offers My Morning Protein, which touts milk’s high-quality protein and its pairability with other key foods that will help shoppers get to the 25 to 30 grams of protein in the morning that nutrition experts recommend. “With its robust marketing, in-store POS and cross-merchandising opportunities, this program allows retailers to tap into the booming protein trend to help sell more milk,” Poirier-Richards says. “Recent in-store results showed sales gains for this message for both milk and complementary protein foods.”

More recently, MilkPEP has embarked on a five-year partnership with the United States Olympic Committee that will include specific retail components, including POS, and offers a robust 360-degree approach encompassing national advertising, engaging digital content, on-pack creative and messaging. “This fully integrated approach offers retailers a unique opportunity to capture consumers’ attention as we head into one of the biggest summers in sport,” Poirier-Richards says.

Destination Dairy

The Midwest Dairy Association (MDA) has launched the Dairy3ForMe campaign, which runs through the end of June and urges support for the Dietary Guidelines’ recommendation of three daily servings of dairy. “We are encouraging consumers to take the Dairy3ForMe pledge [at the group’s website,] and share it on social media,” says Cindy Sorensen, MDA’s VP of business development.

St. Paul, Minn.-based MDA offers a communications toolkit for its retailer and manufacturer partners to support its promotions. Additionally, the group is recommending a three-pronged plan dubbed “Dairy Department Reinvention” to increase sales, Sorensen explains, explaining that it advises simple changes such as improvements in flow and adjacency, as well as the addition of segmentation signage; larger initiatives that might be incorporated into resets, remodels or new store builds; and the creation of dairy destinations within the store, such as meal/snack solution centers, yogurt/ protein stations and milk-and-cookie stations.

This year marks the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association’s (NFRA) 14th annual June Dairy Month national promotion, Out of This World Possibilities in the Dairy Aisle.

Harrisburg Pa.-based NFRA offers retailers an online idea book ( to inspire dairy month promotions and leverage available programs. The group assists retailers in cultivating partnerships with association and brand partners leveraging the June Dairy Month brand and competing in NFRA’s annual Golden Penguin Awards which recognize innovative promo initiatives.

Nondairy Partners

June Dairy Month is also an opportunity for nondairy alternatives within the category whose products are merchandised alongside traditional options.

“Melt has an active public relations program in support of its product line, and also participates in the NFRA’s public relations program that actively supports June Dairy Month,” notes Meg Carlson, president and CEO of Boise, Idaho-based Prosperity Organic Foods, maker of nondairy Melt Organic buttery spread. According to Carlson, her company is using NFRA’s toolkit to help support the launch of its newest products: a probiotic organic spread and organic buttery sticks.

“Nondairy alternatives that feature sustainably sourced ingredients improve [the category’s] appeal to Millennials, especially parents who are seeking these alternatives and willing to pay for them,” Carlson asserts.

Of course, industry groups declare the superiority of “real” dairy, but acknowledge current eating trends and the need to offer the solutions that consumers demand.

Raising Awareness

“Shopping trends continue to evolve based on changing consumer behaviors, and protein is one trend that is still important and relevant to consumers,” says MilkPEP’s Poirier-Richards. “MilkPEP offers a number of turnkey ways for retailers to leverage this trend, which presents a great opportunity to drive milk sales in-store.”

MDA’s Sorensen adds, “Consumers today are looking for fresh, natural and local foods. We help retailers with communication that will help them share with their shoppers the fresh, natural and local aspects of dairy. It seems that most of the retailers with whom I speak are unaware that milk is the most local food in their stores. It comes from a farm, on average, no more than 100 miles away, and left that farm no more than 48 hours ago. No other food in the store can claim that.”

“Milk is the most local food in the store. It comes from a farm, on average, no more than 100 miles away, and left that farm no more than 48 hours ago. No other food in the store can claim that.”
—Cindy Sorensen, Midwest Dairy Association

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